Any minute now my two apprentices, Lauren and Eryn will ring my doorbell. They are assisting me in the honey harvesting and bottling process today. My CSA members have been patiently waiting for their first shares and I intend to get them to them post-haste.
As an aside, this will be the first honey extraction I’ve done in some time where I’ve not had someone there documenting or spectating. I needed this process to be intimate again. I needed it to feel like it still belonged to me. It’s always been a very personal experience but I’ve allowed myself to get swept up in the circus surrounding the NYC beekeeping scene and while it’s been awesome to share with others the joys of being an urban beekeeper, I’ve learned that it’s important to set up boundaries so that I have time to enjoy the hobby I love. Anyway, onto the point of this post…the liquid gold!
We’ll be using a crush and strain method of honey extraction, as I always have. Small NYC apartments rarely have the space to spare for a clunky centrifuge that only gets used twice a year, so I don’t have one. An added benefit is that you get more wax with this method for making candles, too. This method makes the most sense for a hobbyist beekeeper that is fine with harvesting more sparingly. Bees need to eat a lot of honey to rebuild the wax that gets cut out during hand extraction, so you don’t want to get carried away and take too much. Instead of harvesting entire supers, I harvest half of the fully capped frames and drop foundationless ones staggered in between drawn out combs. This way the bees can use these combs as a guide to build straight and still have honey stores to move around until winter. I don’t feed sugar syrup in the fall, I let the bees keep much of the food that they labored to put away.
(Here’s a video of that method in action, performed by my good friend Kirk at the Backwards Beekeepers in Los Angeles!)
Making wax candles tomorrow, so I’ll post some pictures of that soon!